It’s one thing to look at an elephant from a game viewer; your eyes level with the tusks of the world’s largest land mammal. It’s another thing entirely to look up from ground level at an elephant towering over you from a riverbank; your heart beating in your throat and your eye’s capturing the detail in the animal’s toenails. The Okavango Delta is alive with elephants, bathing triumphantly in the endless waterways, and this is where Afrika Ecco Safaris takes you in the seat of a mokoro to view elephants from the ground up.
This is a safari experience on another level; an intimate, unforgettable, and somewhat dwarfing view of the largest mammal on earth in an environment that is completely theirs. Botswana is a country of safari splendour, with a long list of unique wilderness destinations, each bound to outdo the other. The Okavango Delta is known as the ‘jewel of the Kalahari’ – a twinkling spill of blues and greens into an arid and thirsty landscape, much of which is the ancient Kalahari desert.
Elephants migrate to ensure a year-round supply of water, but here they remain throughout the seasons. In winter, when the feeding rivers have swelled and filled the Delta streams, the water levels are high, and the season for mokoro safaris arrives. Afrika Ecco arrived at their private island, Xaxaba, after a few days spent in the Central Kalahari, and spent 3 days surrounded by water, birdsong, tall trees, and the grumbling voices of elephants.
In the evening before the sky fades into a sugary, pink haze, professional mokoro guides invite you to relax into the seat of their dugout canoes, and get your camera ready for action. Using a long, hand-sanded pole equipped with a carved fork into one end for effective grip on the floor of the Delta rivers, they guide you effortlessly through the water. Smooth and silent, the mokoro safari transports you into the world of elephants, which emerge from the reeds to cross the water in front of you, feeding noisily on the lilies they pluck from the water.
When the light begins to fade and sun burns on the horizon, elephants move toward land, and the mokoros head back to the island. Along the way, the gentle giants are illuminated in the day’s last glow and their figures ultimately become towering silhouettes that take your breath away.